Southern Miss vs. Nebraska: 10 Things We Learned in Cornhuskers' Win
The people of Lincoln nearly took to the streets with torches following Nebraska's narrow victory over Wyoming last week, but all is calm once again following the Cornhuskers' 56-13 drubbing of Southern Miss.
It was never really close, as Nebraska returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter to jump out to an early 18-point lead. The Cornhuskers kept the pedal to the metal for the remainder of the half, opening up an insurmountable lead that allowed them to coast to victory in the second half.
Taylor Martinez was efficient and effective, going 15-of-23 for 170 yards and three TDs. Tailback Ameer Abdullah paced the running backs, rushing 17 times for 114 yards and two scores of his own.
This week, Nebraska had no trouble covering the four-touchdown spread. What did we learn following tonight's no-contest?
Ameer Abdullah Is the Man at Tailback
One of the more under-the-radar developments for Nebraska was in the backfield, where it was Ameer Abdullah and nobody else handling the workload until things began to get out of hand in the second half.
When Abdullah exited the ballgame, he had 16 more carries than backup Imani Cross. Arguably, it was Cross who outperformed Abdullah in Nebraska's Week 1 victory over the Cowboys, but head coach Bo Pelini seemed to let it ride with the more experienced Abdullah.
Cross did wind up scoring a touchdown in garbage time, but Abdullah has grabbed a hold of the No. 1 job and appears set to continue getting a majority of the carries for the Cornhuskers.
We Still Don't Know What a Personal Foul Is
In Week 1, there was a questionable personal foul call on Nebraska, and there were a few more that caused us to scratch our heads against Southern Miss.
A helmet-to-helmet hit during a kick return that wasn't really a helmet-to-helmet hit yielded a flag, and then running back Terrell Newby earned a personal foul flag for stiff-arming a defender in the helmet.
The Big Ten is instituting an automatic ejection rule for defensive backs launching at receivers this season, so personal foul calls are only bound to become even more confusing as we enter conference play. But so far, the Cornhuskers have been getting the raw end of the deal when it comes to personal foul calls.
Southern Miss Is a Very Bad Football Team
Turns out that Southern Miss didn't win a single football game during the 2012 season, and after losing to Texas State in Week 1, it hasn't made things any easier on itself moving forward in 2013.
The Golden Eagles were no match for Nebraska Saturday night and have now lost 14 straight games dating back to last season. Taking a look at the schedule, it's difficult to pinpoint where exactly Southern Miss will be able to pull out its next victory, as it must travel to Arkansas on Sept. 14 for what is sure to be a lopsided defeat.
Against the Cornhuskers, Southern Miss was outgained by nearly 200 yards of total offense, couldn't run the football and had mental lapses and crucial errors at inopportune times—all signs of a team caught in the midst of a 14-game losing streak.
Nebraska Has the Best Receiving Corps in the Big Ten
Plenty can be said about the wide receivers over in Columbus, but Nebraska has the perfect combination of experience and rising young talent at the receiver position, and it's shown during the first two weeks of the 2013 season.
The group is led by junior Kenny Bell, and a red-zone threat in Quincy Enunwa has emerged. Enunwa is a big target and has already hauled in three touchdowns this season. Jamal Turner is also a reliable pass-catcher whom Taylor Martinez can turn to in a pinch.
As far as top three receivers, no team has a more talented group than the Cornhuskers, and that will help Martinez immensely as he makes a run at some serious hardware in his senior season.
Nebraska Has a Balanced Offensive Attack
Balance has been the most impressive trait of Nebraska's offense in its first two games, and that makes game-planning for the Cornhuskers all the more difficult from a defensive standpoint.
Against Southern Miss, Nebraska rushed 46 times and threw 28 times, although those numbers were much closer before things got out of hand during the third quarter. Couple this balance with Martinez's ability to scramble and make plays with his feet, and there are three separate areas to account for on defense.
The fact that Martinez can turn to Abdullah, Cross or Newby in the backfield, and then, Bell, Enunwa and Turner in the passing game just increase how dangerous this Nebraska team can be. Pick your poison.
Martinez Can Be Contained
Southern Miss entered Saturday's game with a plan to hold Martinez in check, and it worked to a degree—he only took off running six times for a grand total of 34 yards.
The Golden Eagles would commit two defenders to Martinez and only one to the running back, waiting for the tailback to really burn them before they changed up their strategy. Considering how Southern Miss doesn't exactly have a highly touted defense—it allowed 56 points after all—this was a rather impressive feat.
It also may have led to Nebraska picking apart the Golden Eagle defense in every other way imaginable, but future opponents could use this game as a blueprint for slowing down Martinez. You can't stop Taylor Martinez—you can only hope to contain him.
The Cornhuskers Are Deep at Running Back
The Cornhuskers may have been comfortable riding Abdullah in the backfield against Southern Miss, but if they so chose to, there are multiple other players who could get the job done in the running game.
In Week 1 against Wyoming, both Abdullah and Cross topped the 100-yard plateau. We also got a taste of freshman tailback Terrell Newby, who went for 60 yards against the Golden Eagles in just eight carries.
Throw in some solid runs from Tommy Armstrong and King Frazier and Nebraska isn't quite ready to award Wisconsin with the title of "Running Back U." It should be set at the tailback position for years to come.
Randy Gregory Is a Disrupter
From the junior college ranks to the FBS, Randy Gregory showed he might be the best pass-rusher Nebraska has to offer following his breakout performance against Southern Miss.
His pressure helped force Nebraska's second pick-six in the first quarter which was returned by Ciante Evans, and we should just be thankful that Gregory was unable to tally a sack, or else, the stretcher might have made an appearance on Tom Osborne Field.
With two true freshmen getting significant minutes at linebacker due to injury, Gregory couldn't have picked a better time to wreak havoc, and the Cornhuskers hope that disrupter mentality carries over to next week against UCLA.
Southern Miss Is Mistake-Prone
Maybe this isn't really something we learned Saturday, but getting a chance to see Southern Miss on national television allowed us to see just how undisciplined and mistake-prone this team really is.
Against Texas State in Week 1, the Golden Eagles committed six turnovers en route to a seven-point loss at home. This time around, two interceptions that led directly to Nebraska touchdowns and another pick in the red zone were just too devastating for Southern Miss to recover from, and that's not to mention its seven penalties and 4-of-13 third-down conversions.
There were moments where you thought Southern Miss might actually be able to put it all together, but those beliefs were quickly washed away either because of a turnover or a penalty.
Martinez Still Misses Easy Throws
Following a beautiful strike on an out route to keep the chains moving, Martinez dropped back to pass and had a receiver breaking free for a touchdown—nobody within 15 yards. But Martinez missed him for what should have been an easy six points.
Overall, it was a strong performance for Martinez, but aside from his aforementioned miscue, he missed receivers in open space on multiple occasions. Sure, you can get away with that against the likes of Southern Miss, but Martinez has great talent at wide receiver and just needs to give his wideouts a chance at catching the football.
His legs will always be the great X-factor, and Martinez has improved as a passer over his career at Nebraska, but there will be crucial moments this season when the running game is failing Martinez, and he will be forced to make throws.